Book Review: Lengths by Steph Campbell and Liz Reinhardt

Though this isn’t a book blog per se, I do periodically post book reviews here. Those of you who have been regulars for a while will know that I generally only write about independent novelists. That’s mainly because indies rock. That said, I won’t bother posting reviews of books that don’t interest me or that I didn’t like. Life is too short.

This morning I got a tweet that Steph Campbell and Liz Reinhardt have released their novel Lengths. Both are writers I really enjoy, so I downloaded it on the spot and read it this afternoon.

The short summary: Deo is a 22 year old who is basically still a kid. Hanging out mostly at his grandfather’s, on the beach, and drinking. He doesn’t seem to have much direction in life, and the most striking thing about him is his non-relationship with his father, a relationship characterized by resentment and anger.

Whit is younger, in her first year of college. When the book begins, she’s involved with a guy named Ryan. But she keeps Ryan at arms length. They aren’t friends, they certainly aren’t dating. What they are is a sexual outlet, and nothing more.

Deo and Whitt meet in a tattoo parlor (where she is working), they fall in love, and various problems ensue, as you’d expect.

What I want to write about is the things that struck me the most about the book. Given that one of the overriding themes in my own recent work (Just Remember to Breathe) is the rage, guilt and grief of losing someone in war, I was stunned that this was a major theme in Lengths. In this case, rather than dealing with the guilt and anger and trauma veterans deal with, what we are seeing is the impact on family members. It was believable, and made some of Whit’s inexplicable behavior make perfect sense.

It was intriguing to me that in a book written by two women, I found the male characters more convincing and fleshed out than the females. Deo is both believable and unbelievably frustrating. The book portrayed a rich, if dysfunctional, family life; important friendships, and plenty of Deo’s character. His relationship with his grandfather in particular was real and a delight to read, as were the scenes with his best friend.

Overall, I really liked the characters, and cared about them. I enjoyed the book, and finished it off in the course of couple of hours.

There were two things I felt were flaws (not fatal):

First, I didn’t feel like Whit was explored nearly enough. We get the horrendous emotions of losing her brother and feeling that it was her fault. But outside of that, I wanted to know more about who she was before she arrived in town, and I never felt that I really knew the character. Possibly because she came in from out of town, we never see the tangled relationships in her life.  Who was her best friend? Did she have any friends? What is her history? All we know about his her brother. I liked the character, her personality, her quirks. I wanted to know more, and was disappointed to not get it. Sometimes the ties in our lives, even if it is only the memory of them, provides texture and depth to a character that I didn’t get here.

The one other flaw had to do with Deo’s inheritance. Basically, surfer dude has tons of gold coins which were a legacy from his father. I think the story would have been stronger if he hadn’t had the money: the cash made it too easy for him to resolve his problems. Deo’s character arc is going from lazy surfer bum to responsible contributing member of society.  It would have been much stronger if we’d seen him work for it.

The flaws were minor, however. I enjoyed the dialogue, the tension between the two characters, and especially the relationship with the grandfather. And, if you like your books steamy… this one delivers, with far more graphic sex than I would ever dare to write.

So… if you are into new adult fiction, I’d highly recommend the book, with the caveat that it isn’t quite as strong as either of their previous works. In particular, I loved Grounding Quinn (Steph Campbell), My Heart for Yours (Steph Campbell and Jolene Perry) and Forgiving Trinity (Liz Reinhardt), all of which were powerful novels, as well as Liz Reinhardt’s Brenna Blixen trilogy, which was fun to read but more of a younger audience and set of characters.

I really hope to see another collaboration from these two! They write fun, enjoyable books and Lengths was no exception. You can pick it up now on Amazon.



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